I remember when I was a young child always wanted to entertain people. I would talk and talk and talk. When the teachers said it was show and tell I didn’t realize that they meant that you had to tell about what you were showing. I would just tell a story, share one of my many vivid dreams and each time it was show and tell, my classmates would ask me to tell another story. My creativity wasn’t just in story telling but in visual arts as well. I loved to paint, draw, create using anything I could get my hands on. I took lessons in fabric arts learning to embroider, batik, appliqué, weave. I did ceramics, mosaics and what is now called scrapbooking but then just became a way I liked to tell stories with my photography.
Somehow, between then and now, I stopped telling stories.
I stopped writing. I stopped the art and creating for me and my own expression. I continued in my journals but they were usually filled with my doubts, fears, anger, jealously, sadness, exhaustion, loneliness while also being sprinkled with the mundane details of my day. I know what happened. I became a teacher, and mother, a principal, and I completed my doctorate in education.
It wasn’t that my creative energy was lost but that it was merely sent in other directions.
My story telling, drawing, painting all came to a halt and I focused on writing for my degree, designing lessons and units, presenting workshops, learning to be a teacher, working in various positions and developing my career. Then my children…my beautiful, wonderful, best thing I have ever done, children. I live through their creations, their wonder, their questions and their beauty. I would occassionaly find myself sitting with them doing some painting but it was always in support of their creation and their skills.
Several years ago I became very ill. I had to take time off work — several months. The first month was spent in bed waiting for the nurse to show up to change my bandages and deal with the multiple infections which was incredibly painful or waiting for my mom to show up since I couldn’t bathe. My mother came each day to wash my hair in the sink and help me brush it out because I couldn’t lift my arms to do it because of the pain. As my body began to heal and my energy returned to me I asked my mother if she would get me a sketchbook and some pencil crayons and I began drawing again. It was slow to start but I had the inclination — the drive to do it.
Returning to work and life and health once again drew me away. Distractions and not making time…I know this sounds familiar. As women we are taught from a very young age that we live to serve. This isn’t a bad thing. As a leader in education I believe that the concept of servant leadership is a noble one and I aim to be that type of leader but at the same time, we cannot deplete ourselves and then stand as a leader and tell others how they should take care of themselves and find balance.
Fast forward to the present and I am going into my second year in a system level position in the Curriculum department. The pace is so different from a school. The demands are nothing like a school. It is a shift into a highly political environment where you are no longer watching the chess game from afar but in the midst of it and doubting your language, your decisions and your work. It is lonely. I am no longer surrounded by children who love to stand with me at the beginning and end of the day watching the driveway. I don’t have children asking if I can have lunch with them. I don’t have parents coming to cry in my office asking for support — an ear to listen. I don’t have teachers coming in and telling me their stories of pain and then disregarding all of that to be the pillars of strength and creativity with their students. I don’t have the love that I have always felt — to different degrees of course — in every school I have worked in.
At the same time, my own children are getting older. They are more independent, needing me in a very different way. There will be many hours where they are in their rooms doing their things and connecting with others in their lives and although I feel lonely at times, I am also quite proud of the friendships they have made and the amazing people they have become.
So there I am. Sitting. No one needing me and I realize, I need to find myself again. I know that sounds cliche but it is true. We lose sight of who we are at different times in our lives…
when we are growing up,
when we leave home,
when we get married,
when we start our careers,
when we become mothers…
Everyone has a different path of becoming and when we can stop and pause and look around we realize we are at a point where we can go through our lives unconscious and fill the days with the mundane or we can embrace this moment and figure it out. What is this opportunity?
These podcasts are my therapy to and from work.
I feel calmer and happier. I can feel my heart opening rather than sheltering and putting up walls. I have been drawing like crazy and it brings a peace to me and a feeling of satisfaction I haven’t felt in a long time.
I am going to keep figuring this one out but in the meantime, I would love to hear from others who are…
…embracing their creativity and finding ways to tap into their own creative forces.
Originally published on Medium on September 23, 2015.